Senator Joni Ernst.

Senator Joni Ernst.

Iowa’s freshman U.S. Senator says she would giver herself a high mark for the work she accomplished in her first year in Washington, D.C.

Republican Joni Ernst of Red Oak was asked how she would grade her accomplishments in 2015.

“I would like to give myself at least an A minus — because we hit the ground running, we really did. We took into consideration the things that were very important to Iowans and we moved forward with those initiatives,” Ernst says. Ernst says she is pleased she was able to visit all 99 counties of the state during her first year and says she is already starting the same type of tour for this year.

She says one of the first big issues she addressed is the impact of the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” or WOTUS rules on Iowa. “WOTUS is something that I heard about at every stop — whether it was a small business, whether it was an ag operation — just individuals out across Iowa very concerned about WOTUS,” Ernst says. “So I took that to heart and spearheaded the effort for the resolution of disapproval.” Both the U.S. Senate and the House passed the resolution that seeks to stop WOTUS.

Ernst is a veteran and announced at the end of last year that she was retiring from the Iowa National Guard. She says she’s also proud of the legislation she’s worked on for veterans.

“The very first bill that I introduced was to assist veterans in gaining access to mental health care. Very important to all states. And then also, our veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act of 2015. This is a great way to help our disabled rural veterans to gain access to medical facilities without having to transport themselves there,” according to Ernst.

Ernst says her first year in the U.S. Senate required some adjustment. “I think the hardest transition for me was just understanding that if I want to visit with another member on a topic that is really important to Iowans, just understanding that everybody has a very, very busy schedule out here. And that it may take a couple of weeks to get on another senator’s schedule to sit down and visit on some of those Iowa priorities,” Ernst says.

She says it requires more planning to discuss issues than it did in her prior position in the state senate in Iowa. “There it was really easy to just grab another senator and go to the back bench and sit down and visit on the spot about different issues,” Ernst says. “It does take a little more forethought her and a lot more planning to accomplish that.” Ernst is the first female elected by Iowans to serve in the U.S. Senate. She is now in the second year of her six-year term.